AP NEWS

Nearly 80 children awaiting adoption in Valley

May 12, 2019

There are almost 80 children up for adoption in the Rio Grande Valley, and officials hope families will not only open their hearts but also their homes to these children looking for homes.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services’ Child Protection Services Adoption Unit is charged with matching children with prospective parents and making sure all parties are perfect fits.

Alexandra Hernandez, CPS Adoptions Unit supervisor, said anyone interested in adopting a child is encouraged to attend one of the agency’s foster/adoption information meetings in the Valley.

“Workers are there, and they are able to provide some basic information of what are your options. You can either get licensed through the state or you can get licensed through one of our contractors,” Hernandez said.

Prospective foster/adoptive parents may be single or married and must:

>> be at least 21 years of age, financially stable, and responsible mature adults;

>> complete an application (staff will assist you, if you prefer);

>> share information regarding background and lifestyle;

>> provide relative and non-relative references;

>> show proof of marriage and/or divorce (if applicable);

>> agree to a home study, which includes visits with all household members;

>> allow staff to complete a criminal history background check and an abuse/neglect check on all adults in the household;

>> and attend free training to learn about issues of abused and neglected children.

The training provides an opportunity for the family and DFPS to assess whether foster care or adoption is best for the family. The family may withdraw from the meetings at any time. There is no charge for the meetings.

Foster/adoptive parents generally train together.

Hernandez said the staff introduces the children to the homes of the prospective parents.

“We want to train you and kind of inform you as best as we can regarding what to expect with the children who might be placed in your home,” Hernandez said. “Our children are wonderful, but unfortunately they are in our care due to some abuse or neglect by their biological parent.”

The process to adopt a child can take six months or more because officials want to make sure it’s a right match for both the parent and the child.

“Once a child is placed in your home, we do require a minimum of six months for the child to be living in the home before they can go ahead and proceed with the legal process,” Hernandez said.

“It just feels awesome, you get very excited” Hernandez said about when children get adopted. “You get butterflies in your stomach. You just get so excited.”

The children up for adoption range from 1 years old to 16 years old. Some have been in the system up to 24 months.

Hernandez said many of the children up for adoption are siblings, and the agency tries its best to ensure that siblings are adopted together instead of being split apart.

“We try everything we can before we even are thinking about separating them. We’ve always think about that we have already removed them from any biological family and the least we can do is try to give them an opportunity to be adopted together,” Hernandez said.

Additional Foster Care Requirements

In addition to the basic requirements, foster parents must:

>> have adequate sleeping space for the children in the home;

>> allow no more than six children in the home, including the parents’ own children or children for whom they provide daycare;

>> agree to a nonphysical discipline policy;

>> permit fire, health and safety inspections of the home;

>> vaccinate all pets;

>> obtain and maintain CPR/first aid certification;

>> obtain TB testing as required by the local health department for household members;

>> attend 20 hours or more of training each year.

Responsibilities of Foster and Adoptive Families

Foster Parents:

>> provide daily care and nurturing of children in foster care;

>> advocate for children in their schools and communities;

>> inform the children’s caseworkers about adjustments to the home, school, and community, as well as any problems that may arise, including any serious illnesses, accidents, or serious occurrences involving the foster children or their own families;

>> make efforts as team members with children’s caseworkers towards reunifying children with their birth families;

>> provide a positive role model to birth families and

>> help children learn life skills.

Adoptive Parents:

>> provide permanent homes and a lifelong commitment to children into adulthood;

>> provide for the short-term and long-term needs of children;

>> provide for children’s emotional, mental, physical, social, educational, and cultural needs, according to each child’s developmental age and growth;

>> may become certified as a foster family and accept children who are not legally free for adoption, but whose permanency plan is adoption.

lmartinez@brownsvilleherald.com